The popular English adage; “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” perfectly captures the feeling I walked out of the cinema with after about 2 hours of a 3D journey, watching director David Yates’ remark of Tarzan—-the jungle being whose connection with the jungle animals in the original film was so touching that a separation got some people teary.
This time we are dealing with a fully grown civilised Tarzan; yet he could still swing, connect with the animals and had a great rapport with the villagers stationed near the jungle where he grew up—-but there were deeper problems with the remake, as attempts through flash backs to take audience back to how Tarzan came about awfully fails.
For the many times that Tarzan’s former existence as a younger jungle man was shown, he was depicted as fully shaven, sleek, semi-clothed and the emotional connection between him and the animals couldn’t be fetched. The magic was missing…
But that was Tarzan then—-now, he is John Clayton, Lord of Greystoke (played by Alexander Skarsgård), married to an American-Jane (played Margot Robbie) who saved his life when ironically he tried to save her while a resident of the dangerous yet wonderful jungle.
Stationed in England as a member of the House of Lords, John Clayton is called upon by the Prime Minister to go on a diplomatic mission to Congo, his old stomping and swinging ground, an assignment he first expressed no interest in until a US adventurer-George Washington Williams (played Samuel L Jackson) persuaded him to do so on the back of morals and affection.
George Washington Williams believed King Leopold II of Belgium was using slaves to build his empire in Congo—-the mention of brutal slavery of the people Tarzan considers as family knocked his moral chord and soon he was on his way to Congo with his wife, alongside George Washington Williams in a quest to find incriminating evidence to nail those behind the veil of the slave labour.
Tarzan was journeying back to a place called home, not knowing to him an incident that happened when he was a jungle boy with no honour had made him an enemy of Chief Mbonga ( played by Djimon Hounsou), a leader of a barbarian tribe.
Meanwhile, a dubious Belgian envoy-Leon Rom (played by Christoph Waltz) makes use of Chief Mbonga’s obsession to have Tarzan brought to him, striking a diamond deal, capable of elevating the almost bankrupt Belgian empire from its financial pit.
Tarzan was back—-he could still connect and hold some play time with lions and the villagers Jane introduced him to then were ecstatic to see him. But soldiers were on a raid in search for him, and with mainly the help of Washington, he escaped Rom and his soldiers’ abduction, while they made away with his wife and several “slaves”.
That’s where things kicked in for Tarzan—-he needed to set free the many captured villagers and most importantly, his wife.
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The legend was awaken and aided by deep jungle marathon and swings, Tarzan made way to catch up with the captors. On his way, he encountered and hosted a fierce fight with Chief Mbonga.
‘The Legend of Tarzan’ is a good attempt to remake a classic like Tarzan but it was not necessary and I am not sure there was a demand for it, certainly not for this heavily computerized-end product.
It surely fails to draw the needed emotions and attentiveness. Even the brutal fight between Tarzan and a huge computer-generated beast in the middle of the jungle did not seem right, something was not normal—if anything at all, it caused laughter.
And then there’s the hovering issue of the film being racist, springing out how once again black people are unable to save even themselves, except to have a well-built handsome white man-Tarzan come to their rescue.
Perhaps to balance the undeniable heroic significance of Tarzan in Hollywood’s seemingly depicting of black people as always in need of a white “Messiah”, Samuel L Jackson is captured as much as the lead—-sort of saying, it isn’t only the white man who is the frontrunner, there’s a black man by his side, all working to free thousands of black people. And if Samuel L Jackson is in there and he thinks it’s no way racist, then it is not…
If you are looking forward to the famous Tarzan noise; he makes it but not strikingly enough and it even comes too late, when you’ve fully lost interest.